The Elder Scrolls Online is the cover star of our next issue, out June 6, and over the course of the coming week we'll be taking an in-depth look at the eagerly anticipated online debut of Bethesda's revered RPG series. On Friday, we spoke in detail to game director Matt Firor about the huge task of opening the gates of Tamriel to the whole world for the first time in the upcoming MMORPG. But as well as aiming to define the future of MMOGs, Firor has one eye on the genre's lineage, too.
Ask Firor and he’ll tell you that The Elder Scrolls Online is the epitome of the third-generation MMOG – it’s taken the slick questing and levelling template of second-generation games like World of Warcraft, and it’s now busy refining specific aspects, such as accessibility and social interactions. Building up the social side of the game, however, has seen his team looking right back to elements found only in first-generation MMOGs. The reason? Public dungeons.
“If anybody’s played MMOGs for a long time, they’ll know that the very first generation had public dungeons,” Firor explains, loading up a low-level Daedra public dungeon to demo – a grand series of catacombs with lofty ceilings and walls of rusty brown stone. “Public dungeons were my favourite thing about EverQuest, in fact, and I can’t think of an MMOG since then that’s had them.
"When you think back to the fun MMOG moments in the first generation, it’s standing there, terrified, in an enclosed space, waiting for someone to come along and save you. We can’t do that punitive gameplay that they did in those days, but we can put people together in places where they want to work with others.”
Public dungeons are crucial to one of The Elder Scrolls Online’s central ambitions for socialising: to see players meeting each other in the game world rather than the interfaces. “They’re basically a space that’s designed for people who are not grouped together to go into to fight," Firor says. "It’s a great place for people to connect with other players and they’re very important to us, although we still have instanced private dungeons and end-game raid dungeons for groups of up to six players too.
"Each one of these public dungeons is soloable, however, and there are a lot of them, but they’re also dangerous. Lots of creatures, very close together. Basically, if you solo it, you’ll need to find a place to heal, and then you might find another player there who’s exactly like you, and needs help, and then you can fall in together. You’ll have met someone that, hopefully, you’ll want to stick around with later on.”
Look out for much more on the site over the course of this week. We also heartily recommend PC Gamer's in-depth coverage of The Elder Scrolls Online.